Space, place and social exclusion: an ethnographic study of young people outside education and employment

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This paper reports on the first two years of a longitudinal ethnographic study of 20 young people in northern England who have been officially classified as not in education, employment or training (NEET). Drawing on Henri Lefebvre's conceptualisation of space as perceived, conceived and lived, this paper analyses how young people comprehend, use and encounter places and spaces relating to residence, work and learning, and the role of spatialities in reproducing or interrupting aspects of social exclusion and marginality. A number of key themes emerging from the data are discussed, including the interaction of conceived, perceived and lived space in young people's struggles for subjectivity, the importance of agency and biography in shaping how different lived spaces emerge from this interaction, and the possibility of critical incidents causing shifts in lived space that intensify the difficulties young people face in finding appropriate education or employment. A particularly significant finding is that participants often feel isolated and lack control over their lives, resulting in alienation from authority and community that tends to further marginalise these young people, distancing them from meaningful contexts of education, training and work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-78
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Issue number1
Early online date14 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


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